Good morning. As mentioned a few days ago, I read an incredible article in the current issue of Newsweek called No- The One Word That Can Save Your Life. I think this article is a MUST READ for everyone, especially those concerned about cholesterol, heart disease, osteoporosis, and those of us who are at that age when many screening tests are being encouraged (in some cases, demanded) by our physicians. In fact, there is a growing body of research proving that some of the commonly ordered tests and procedures are not only overused, but often don’t help patients and in some cases, actually hurt them!
This article focuses on several prominent physicians who are finding that too much health care can actually be a bad thing. The general rule of thumb is that by screening and testing we can get to the root of a problem and treat it with medication or surgery, but in many cases, testing simply leads to more testing as well as interventions for things that have may very well go away on their own. In many cases the abnormalities found in scans are not even the cause of the problem and we end up getting treated for something that wasn’t bothering us in the first place, while the original problem continues.
One of the reasons this article impacted me so greatly, is because I know too many people that are a result of this very scenario. The article delves into the trouble with cardiac stents (medically recommended for people who have suffered heart attacks less than 24 hours before the procedure) that are often done aggressively for others who would fair just as well, or better, with medication or…well, you knew it was coming, a change in diet and exercise–how about 500,000 of these angioplasties done yearly when other, less invasive, less dangerous and less expensive routes could have had as successful or better results.
And what about statins?? How many people do you know that are on them? Are you? Do you know that statins are only proven effective for people that have BOTH high cholesterol AND heart disease, not JUST high cholesterol? I have been screaming from the roof tops about this one for years, but since most people feel their doctor knows best, my screams aren’t often heard. Another article I read in another magazine this month quotes a doctor who suggests that lifestyle is a much more accurate predictor of heart disease than testing for cholesterol. Once again, those that exercise regularly and eat healthfully, have lesser chances of having a cardiac event, or stroke than an the person walking around thinking his/her statin will take care of their plaque filled arteries. Keep in mind that the possible side effects of taking statins daily is painful wasting of the muscle. While doctors may tell you this is rare, I will never forget sitting with a woman who’s mom was dying from a wasting away of her heart muscle, a side effect of her statin…and unfortunately, it’s not as rare as we may be led to believe.
Of all the tests that were mentioned in this article, I was surprised to read about the over-use of the MRI for back pain. Here the main idea is that if you find the cause of the pain, it can generally be successfully eliminated with surgery or therapy, but there are huge flaws with this theory. For one, the MRIs see EVERYTHING and for most of us, our spines are NOT perfect. Once a practitioner finds a problem such as a bulging disc, they assume that is the cause of the pain, but turns out, it’s usually not the case. Additionally, studies (and I have been following these for decades) continue to prove that most back pain responds just as well to plain-old rest and mild exercise and massage, or chiropractics, as it does to surgery, yet surgery has all the risks.
The article touches upon more…anti-depressants which have been shown to improve severe depression, but not moderate or mild and proton pump inhibitors proven effective against gastric reflux and some ulcers but more than half the prescriptions written for these are for conditions that are NOT helped by these drugs.
Treating people for adverse drug reactions in our country cost the US $200 billion dollars a year. Over use of procedures is literally killing people. Even things people see as harmless like bone density screenings are being done TOO MUCH. Medically, unless you have symptoms of bone loss, the information obtained from a screening is a useful guide for people OVER 65.
I know this was a lengthy read this morning. This information is huge and impacts most of us, or our loved ones. I urge you to read the entire article yourself. Amazingly, thanks to my webmaster, the link to it just appeared on my screen and I will put it at the bottom of this entry. If I knew that was going to happen, I would have saved you all this reading of my synopsis!!! Anyway, read it once, then read it again. Make sure you do YOUR homework before saying yes to a test, screening, pill, procedure or surgery! Of course there are times when we will need all of the above, but don’t just assume it is right just because your doctor says so or all your friends are doing it!
Unfortunately the crisis in Libya pre-empted Bill Clinton on the Sanjay Gupta show this past Sunday night. I believe it is scheduled to run again this Saturday night at 8pm eastern time. It is all about heading off heart attacks before they happen and how much healthier Clinton is, today, at 65, through, yup, there it is again, diet and exercise.
If you know someone who may benefit from this information, please pass it on!!! Take care of your health and have a great day.
One Word Can Save Your Life: No! (thedailybeast.com)